Dating California girls, I’ve really had the opportunity to appreciate how important car culture is in this state. It seems like all Califorians have a serious opinion of what their dream car is and a knack for spotting their favorite cars on the road. Myself, I grew up in what is “a somewhat less car-oriented town”:http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=11464, and I’ve never had the relentless California drive to have the greatest, best-driving, best-looking car of all.
Part of this is just that the two cities draw from different cultures. For starters, most of the people who could afford cars moved out of Baltimore; those who are left are apt to prefer either American muscle cars with big turbo intakes on the hood, or big American trucks with raised suspensions and even bigger tires (perhaps the Chevy plant that used to be in town encouraged the preference for domestic automobiles). I have no memories whatsoever of people with lowered cars, although I may just be revealing my whiteness here. The expensive customizations, the whining turbos, the ubiquitous tricked-out Asian rides… I just didn’t see them back home.
So what car did I dream of? I only had a fantasy involving a (non-flying) car once, when I was in second grade, when my father got a new car. At first, I loved that car; I imagined that it was the perfect ride for a gritty private investigator, and, of course, I imagined myself as that gritty private investigator. Clad in a brown fedora and trenchcoat, I’d travel the city solving crimes. Fortunately, I wouldn’t need air conditioning, because my father’s car didn’t have that, or an FM radio, because it didn’t have that either. This car’s light-brown exterior would match perfectly with my bearded face, and I’d drive it purposefully and aggressively around town as I crouched in its vinyl seats. Yes, that car was the only car I ever imagined myself owning, the only one I ever pretended I’d drive when I sat alone. It was great, the car of my dreams, that…
1983 Ford Escort L Hatchback?
That’s right, the only car I’ve ever dreamed of was an entry-level econobox with a 69 horsepower engine and absolutely no added options of any kind. And it was tan. No, clearly I don’t share the same car culture as my Californian compatriots.
Although I did have a bit of geek lust for that “second-generation Prius”:http://www.hybridcars.com/prius.html. Cleverness just turns me on.